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Kentucky embraces energy transition with $5.7 billion battery plants

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Ryan Van Velzer
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WFPL
Ford and BlueOval SK held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the $5.7 billion battery park near Elizabethtown on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022

Most of the batteries for the next generation of Ford and Lincoln electric vehicles will be made at a nearly $6 billion battery park now under construction near Elizabethtown.

Gov. Andy Beshear calls it the biggest economic development project Kentucky has ever seen -- a project that’s laying the groundwork for a transition away from fossil fuels and toward a cleaner energy economy.

“This is an important day not only for the future of this region and our entire commonwealth but also the future of electric vehicles in the United States and beyond,” Beshear said.

With it will come an estimated 5,000 new jobs and a $25 million technical training center within the Kentucky Community and Technical College System that will teach employees the technical skills and manufacturing processes needed to make the advanced lithium ion batteries.

The BlueOval SK battery park is a joint venture between Ford and Korean-owned SK On. The 2.3-square-mile campus will include twin battery plants capable of producing 80 gigawatt hours worth of batteries annually.

Ford officials say the company plans to produce 2 million electric vehicles per year beginning in 2026. Blue Oval SK CEO David Hahm says two-thirds of the advanced batteries used in those electric vehicles will come from the BlueOval SK battery park.

“Kentucky is going to be the hub for electric vehicle batteries,” Hahm said. “We are talking about changing from the internal combustion engine to electric vehicles. It’s a revolution.”

The planet’s leading body on climate science says humanity must essentially halve carbon emissions by 2030 in order to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

Around 27% of U.S. emissions come from the transportation sector, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. By transitioning to electric vehicles and rebuilding the power grid to rely on solar, wind, battery storage and other forms of renewable energy, the country could essentially cut its emissions in half.

Climate scientists say this transition must happen within the next decade to maintain a habitable planet. This is an enormous challenge, but it also offers economic opportunities.

Kentucky alone has seen more than $9.7 billion in announced investments and more than 8,500 full time jobs for Kentuckians in the electric vehicle industry alone, Beshear said.

“Together we will lead this growing EV industry far into the future. That is a future full of prosperity and growth,” he said.

Ryan Van Velzer has told stories of people surviving floods in Thailand, record-breaking heat in Arizona and Hurricane Irma in South Florida. He has worked for The Arizona Republic, The Associated Press and The South Florida Sun Sentinel in addition to working as a travel reporter in Central America and Southeast Asia. Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Ryan is happy to finally live in a city that has four seasons.
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